University Rescinds Clearly Unconstitutional Ban on Athletes' Protests

Photo Credit: By Veeresh Dandur,  CC BY-SA 3.0

Public institutions such as state universities continue to demonstrate their dedication to the racist principles upon which this country was founded.  Southern Illinois University had published a policy which prohibited players from engaging in “activism” regarding political issues, stating that they “must remain neutral on any issue political in nature when wearing SIU official uniforms and when competing/performing in official department of athletics events and activities. . . ” Such a ban was unconstitutional on its face as a violation of the first amendment’s provision that precludes governments from abridging free speech.  As a public university, SIU must abide by the legal precedent set in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette which held that students may not be compelled to engage in nationalistic rituals such as the pledge of allegiance. 

It continues to boggle the mind that these entities, high school and collegiate, with access to legal counsel routinely make these policies that they then have to rescind or otherwise reverse. But even more troubling is the underlying assertion at a university that its students, whose experience should necessarily include the free exchange of ideas and the opportunity to grow and learn, should refrain from peacefully exercising their rights in the face of white objection or disdain.  White people are not the arbiters of the rights Black people are authorized to express. Their continued histrionic and utterly racist antics in response to the challenge of systemic discrimination in this country, a centuries long venture, reflects their disregard for our humanity and autonomy as human beings.  Instead of being concerned about the plight of Americans of African descent, these administrators are focused on the exposure of this country’s rank hypocrisy.  It speaks to the power of this protest which cuts to the heart of the fallacy of American exceptionalism, to which most white Americans tie their identity. 

While it is a positive development that the policy was rescinded after free speech advocates voiced their objections, that this was necessary to begin with is a disgrace.  One would assume this would deter other institutions from acting in the same manner, but history tells us that there is nothing as persistent in this country as white dedication to the maintenance of systemic racism.  So, let us continue to demonstrate and focus on Black empowerment, uplift, and independence.

Article below by Emma Pettit at

Effective this semester, Southern Illinois University athletes and cheerleaders were banned from showing any sign of activism while in uniform — a decision that ran afoul of the First Amendment, according to some free-speech groups. After the outcry, though, the university rescinded the new ban on Thursday, according to the student newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.

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